Cover of Governing Security by Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar
Governing Security
The Hidden Origins of American Security Agencies
Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar


336 pages.
from $29.95

Cloth ISBN: 9780804770699
Paper ISBN: 9780804770705

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Winner of the 2013 Outstanding Academic Title Award, sponsored by Choice.

The impact of public law depends on how politicians secure control of public organizations, and how these organizations in turn are used to define national security. Governing Security explores this dynamic by investigating the surprising history of two major federal agencies that touch the lives of Americans every day: the Roosevelt-era Federal Security Agency (which became today's Department of Health and Human Services) and the more recently created Department of Homeland Security.

Through the stories of both organizations, Cuéllar offers a compelling account of crucial developments affecting the basic architecture of our nation. He shows how Americans end up choosing security goals not through an elaborate technical process, but in lively and overlapping settings involving conflict over agency autonomy, presidential power, and priorities for domestic and international risk regulation. Ultimately, as Cuéllar shows, the ongoing fights about the scope of national security reshape the very structure of government, particularly during—or in anticipation of—a national crisis.

About the author

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar is Stanley Morrison Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Co-Director of the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation. He has served in the Obama and Clinton Administrations, testified before lawmakers, and has an extensive record of involvement in public service.

"This well-researched and written book should become a seminal work. Any scholar or student of bureaucracy, security studies broadly, or modern US history should read this excellent book . . . Essential."

—T. T. Gibson, CHOICE

"Not only does Cuéllar's background as a professor of law and political science lend authority to his book, references to a multitude of scholars across many fields suggest that the book is a major work on American national security. Each chapter has extensive and annotated footnotes, and the book has a lengthy bibliography."

—Susan A. Smith, Law Library Journal

"Resurrecting FDR's largely forgotten Federal Security Agency and showing how it morphed into the present-day Department of Health and Human Services, Cuéllar exposes the organizational roots of policy and the bureaucratic roots of power. Applying this fresh lens to the Department of Homeland Security places bureaucratic power into an unforgiving glare. In this book, law, political science, and sociology come together in a masterful analysis."

—Charles Perrow, Yale University

"Security is a simple word with a complex and contested history. In this learned, lucid, and provocative book, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar brilliantly illuminates both the intellectual and the institutional evolution of America's often-troubled preoccupation with security over the last three-quarters of a century."

—David Kennedy, Stanford University

"Governing Security deftly blends archival research, news accounts, and bureaucratic theory to reveal fascinating parallels and divergences in the establishment and operation of the old Federal Security Agency and new Department of Homeland Security. Cuellar offers compelling insights—for policymakers on the attractiveness of defining security broadly and for political scientists on the myriad factors that shape agency creation."

—Anne Joseph O'Connell, University of California, Berkeley